Director's Blog
How To Film a Bicycle Chase
by
February 19th, 2013

THANK YOU to all of our fans, old and new, who made SHANGHAI CALLING‘s first weekend a big success!

Not only did SHANGHAI CALLING perform extremely well in our two main theaters (Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena and The Quad Cinema in Manhattan) we also managed to stay on the Top 10 iTunes “Indie Movies” list all week! It’s clear to us that your word of mouth is what’s driving our success. We couldn’t have done it without you!  Keep spreading the word!

As a token of gratitude to our fans, I’ll be using this blog to share some inside, behind-the-scenes info that I couldn’t write about before the movie was released. For my first installment: HOW TO FILM A BICYCLE CHASE.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen the film: SPOILER ALERT! At one point in SHANGHAI CALLING, our lead actor DANIEL HENNEY climbs onto a bicycle and chases  something. (This probably isn’t that big of a “spoiler” since we show you this in the trailer, and also there’s a shot of him riding a bicycle on the poster. But still.)

So, how do you film a bicycle chase? Bicycle chases aren’t the most common type of scene in movies, so Director of Photography ARMANDO SALAS had to come up with a creative way of shooting this scene, in China, on a shoestring budget.

We accomplished this by combining shots of Daniel Henney actually riding the bicycle with “process shots” of the Daniel sitting on top of the bicycle as it was being pulled by a camera car. In this case, the camera car was not an actual car, but rather a gas-powered ATV called a Gator.

The "Gator" setup for filming the bicycle chase in SHANGHAI CALLING. Daniel Henney is on the bicycle. DP Armando Salas is on the camera. I am in the passenger's seat with my back turned, watching on a video monitor and shouting at Henney.

The grip department built a rigging that allowed us to safely attach the bicycle to the rear or forward end of the Gator (so that we could film the actor from in front or behind) while traveling at reasonably high speeds through alleyways and parks. Notice that the bicycle wheels are not actually touching the ground, which allows Henney to pedal without worrying about how fast he’s actually going.

It’s a pretty complicated camera setup, and not something you want to be testing while filming. So a few days before the start of production, Armando traveled to the equipment warehouse to examine the rig and give input on how to attach it. The grips clamped the bicycle onto the rig and Armando shot this NEVER BEFORE SEEN test footage on his iPhone, with an actor who MAY OR MAY NOT BE DANIEL HENNEY!

On the day of filming the bicycle chase, the setup worked very well with one exception: The pedals kept coming off of the bicycle. I had told the prop department to get me a new bike and make it look old, but I’m pretty sure they just got me an old bike. Luckily, we got what we wanted, and Daniel had a great time filming this scene.

Thanks again to all of our fans! More insider info on the making of SHANGHAI CALLING to come!

@danielhsia

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